Tag Archives: monument valley

Monument Valley, post-House of Cards

Michael Martin, IGN:

Main character Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is seen playing and describing the game in the fifth episode of the hit Netflix series. As a result, the game has soared into the top 10 top paid apps on iTunes, where it currently resides at number five and is number three in the paid games category on the Google Play store. The game did not rank in the top 25 on either app store before appearing on the show.

Speaking at GDC 2015, ustwo lead designer Ken Wong said the show’s producers reached out to the developer about the game appearing in House of Cards at no cost to the studio, according to IB Times.

“They called us up and they said, ‘Can we use your game?’ and we said ‘Yes,’” Wong said.

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Monument Valley in Numbers

An official (and of course beautiful) chart of sales figures, analytics, and other interesting stats from ustwogames. My favorites:

  • $5,858,625 revenue
  • 50% of players who started the game completed it
  • 53% of time and 64% of dollars were put into Forgotten Shores, the optional DLC expansion, compared against the main title.

Monument Valley is a truly remarkable game. Relinking my review of Monument Valley 1.0 and Neil McFarland’s thoughts on Freemium vs. Premium.

Download Monument Valley for iOS.

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Monument Valley is Magic

Myke Hurley of Relay FM interviewing Neil McFarland, Director of Games at ustwo:

MH: Visually, Monument Valley’s levels, they focus a lot on optical illusions and trickery. How much more difficult is that to develop for than just creating a straight “go from here to here” type level?

NM: It offers a lot of different challenges. We’re trying to delight people. There is that moment of delight when you turn the Penrose triangle around, you see it for the first time. Something goes from 2D to 3D and you suddenly see a connection that’s not there. It’s magic. For us, it was a drive to see how many of those we could uncover and re-engineering things and playing and trying and failing and getting it right and getting it wrong. It’s not easy but we were following our noses and following intuition and just seeing how many of those moments we could find within the concept.

The software engineering behind video games is still beyond me. Even so, I couldn’t help but wonder just how ustwo were able to engineer Monument Valley’s impossible yet traversable objects on the fly. Magic is right.

Relinking my review of Monument Valley 1.0 here.

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Friendly Freemium Reminder


That’s it, we’re giving up the premium game. Next time we’re just going to sell you 500 coins for $2 instead.

Love this tweet.

Relinking to some thoughts I had on Clash of Clans; a gross, empty, unfulfilling, time and wallet suck.

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Ustwo Offers 8 New Monument Valley Chapters for $1.99, Gets Hammered with 1-Star Reviews


Seems quite a few people have gone back and 1 star reviewed Monument Valley upon update because the expansion was paid. This makes us sad.

Terribly sad news. Admittedly, I initially tweeted the new levels were free upon seeing that my app had automatically updated to 2.0. After a quick check and ‘duh’ moment, said tweet was deleted and replaced with the following:

Monument Valley 2.0 by @ustwogames is out! $1.99 IAP for 8 new chapters:

My review of 1.0:

I’m so thrilled that the folks at Ustwo decided to release additional content for Monument Valley. The game is an artistic treasure; mind-bending and beautiful. Worth well over $6 for the complete package, if you ask me.

Eli Hodapp at TouchArcade has a brilliant piece on the dilemma. Likewise, John Gruber’s take is spot on. Relinking to some other worthwhile pieces on free-to-play and premium models:

Ustwo: Monument Valley “left money on the table” with premium pricing
Ustwo director of games Neil McFarland on the creative benefits of avoiding free-to-play via GamesIndustry.biz.

Mobile is burning, and free-to-play binds the hands of devs who want to help
Barry Meade of Fireproof Games writing for Polygon.

Finishing with an excerpt from my Monument Valley 1.0 review, dated April 6, 2014:

It seems the urgency for time has permeated the minds of the developers at ustwo. Monument Valley’s 2-3 hour play-through is the perfect amount of that decadent cake. The experience of Monument Valley is sure to please both the hardcore gamer and casual audiences alike. In fact, it is the perfect example of the importance of short and sweet, possibly introducing these polarizing audiences to a new approach in game design as seen in Journey, The Room, or EDGE. And like that decadent cake, Monument Valley’s length, design, and puzzles are mesmerizing enough to feel satisfied yet haunting enough to warrant constant craving. If DLC is abound, sign me up.

Signed up for $1.99 this morning. Would have given more if they asked.

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Freemium v. Premium

Neil McFarland, director of games at Ustwo (Monument Valley), as quoted by Gamesindustry.biz:

Freemium effectively focuses on a niche – they just happen to be whales who spend unlimited amounts of money. Despite freemium games being seemingly for everyone, they’re not really.

[Premium’s] clearly not the best business model, but it was about our passion and the need to communicate something about gaming; a meaningful contribution to the medium, and to not overstay our welcome. Just give people something and that’s it – we’re not going to press you for endless hours of your time.

I thank the team at Ustwo for a fulfilling and concise experience. Only 90 minutes yet the sights and sounds of Monument Valley still linger in my mind. Relinking my review here.

Looking forward to the release of the Monument Valley original soundtrack by Stafford Bawler, Obfusc & Grigori.

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Mobile is burning, and free-to-play binds the hands of devs who want to help

Mobile is burning, and free-to-play binds the hands of devs who want to help

Barry Meade of Fireproof Games writing for Polygon:

In 2013 mobile games made over $10 billion globally and allegedly this is great. $10 billion sounds a lot, it is a lot, but the makers of Candy Crush alone took almost $2 billion. Throw in the top ten and there’s most of your games market gone; hoovered up by ten cute grinding games that are clones of each other. Any remaining change from that money is scraped off the table and scattered across a games industry trying to service a billion devices.

A 2 percent “engaged’ audience does not seem towering in achievement for a creative industry that looks to draw its players into new experiences. We’re living in a world where Netflix’s content inspires hysteria in grown adults, so is mobile gaming really in the same league when 98 percent of its gamers spend more on pencil sharpeners than games made by our billion-dollar leaders?

In my experience, The Room sparks the same water-cooler conversations for non-gamers that Myst did. It appears Monument Valley is doing the same, as experienced with my non-gaming colleagues. I think “the binge” has hindered the TV water-cooler conversation now that everyone is on their own schedule. Delivery of challenging and original yet “polished” and “possible” experiences can bring back the general audience gaming conversations we had on the playground.

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Monument Valley – A Review

The beauty of brevity. The pleasure of paradox.


Ten puzzles. Ten gorgeous, mind-bending, paradoxical puzzles. This is a video game you will complete. In fact, Monument Valley may the first video game many will complete. This is by design.

“With so many games, people never see the end, because there’s so many hours of gameplay, we wanted to make a game where you see the whole thing.” – Dan Gray, Monument Valley Executive Producer in an interview with Polygon

As a child, completing a game was a triumph. This was not due to lack time, rather heightened difficulty. Personally, my choice in games was largely based on franchise rather than quality. In turn, this provided me with a library of poorly designed “classics” such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Battletoads. Hours were spent replaying games from Stage 1-1 on to the point where I was forced to power down the console. Check points were few and far between. Save files were non-existent. When asking a video game funding parent if their child had completed any, you’d be hard pressed to receive a positive answer.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this notion has persuaded many audiences away from video games entirely. If they cannot be finished, what is the point?

Now in my late-20s, working 10-12 hours per day, fitting in crucial exercise for a metabolism that seems all but lost, weekends spent running errands that have stacked up, and nurturing a relationship with my soon-to-be wife, I find very little free time to invest in my love for gaming. The minute-to-minute time I do find is spent reading pieces on Polygon or IGN, sharing these with the greater social media landscape. Echoed in Ben Kuchera’s post “Parenthood makes gaming better by making time your most precious resource,” the value of time skyrockets as we age. The pastimes of yesteryear begin to seem wasteful, yet we strive to retain a connection to our childhood identity. After all, it is the foundation of our dreams. It is who we are and where we are headed.

Since playing Final Fantasy X (recently remastered for PS3 and PSVita) in high school, I have searched for games with rich story. Until the rise of indies, these only seemed attainable through 15-40 hour bouts of character and world building, effectively turning a game into an interactive novel. Fitting one of these epics into my day-to-day has become a near impossible feat.

This is where Monument Valley succeeds. Piling mass amounts of beautiful art and ambitious puzzle design into a bite sized experience is the video game equivalent of a decadent cake. Too much is overbearing. Not enough is unsatisfying. There is a balance.

Monument Valley immediately finds it’s footing through a rich color palette, a soothing soundtrack, and delicate animation. The player understands this world and its inhabitants. The story is used as a mysterious additive that comes secondary to exploring the gorgeous worlds built on paradoxical M. C. Esher design.

Puzzle solving through the discovery of paradox makes the player feel empowered and unstoppable. The experience of breaking illogical boundaries through new perspectives gives players the opportunity to live out their fantasies; it offers a sensation of seeing The Matrix or experiencing the paradox of Inception first-hand.

As the game progresses, the solutions to impossible geometry become more and more difficult to discover. It was not uncommon for me to consciously forget my knowledge of the real world and instead fall back on memories of mazes and Puzzlemania books of my youth. As the difficulty builds, the frustration of adulthood becomes more apparent. Our desire to know how things work is challenged to near breaking point. Even those with a basic understanding of code, animation, and design will scratch their heads and ask of the developers, “how did they do that?” Somehow, the player is able to move the on-screen character through paths that did not previously exist until viewing the vertical world from a different angle. Genius.

It seems the urgency for time has permeated the minds of the developers at ustwo. Monument Valley’s 2-3 hour play-through is the perfect amount of that decadent cake. The experience of Monument Valley is sure to please both the hardcore gamer and casual audiences alike. In fact, it is the perfect example of the importance of short and sweet, possibly introducing these polarizing audiences to a new approach in game design as seen in JourneyThe Room, or EDGE. And like that decadent cake, Monument Valley’s length, design, and puzzles are mesmerizing enough to feel satisfied yet haunting enough to warrant constant craving. If DLC is abound, sign me up.

Monument Valley is available exclusively on iOS (iTunes)

Originally published on TheStarrList.com


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